Knight Institute and Committee to Protect Journalists v. CIA

A FOIA lawsuit for records concerning the U.S. government's "duty to warn" journalist Jamal Khashoggi

In late 2018, the Knight Institute and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) filed FOIA requests for records showing whether U.S. intelligence agencies fulfilled their “duty to warn” reporter Jamal Khashoggi of threats to his life and liberty.

Khashoggi—a U.S. resident, Washington Post journalist, and prominent critic of Saudi Arabia—was killed in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul on October 2, 2018. News reports indicated that, before Khashoggi’s killing, U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing plans to capture him. Intelligence Community Directive 191 provides that when a U.S. intelligence agency learns of an impending threat to an individual’s life or liberty, the agency must “warn the intended victim.”

After the intelligence agencies failed to release documents in response to the organizations’ FOIA requests, the Knight Institute and CPJ filed this lawsuit.

Agencies Involved: Central Intelligence Agency; Department of State; Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Investigation); National Security Agency; Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Status: On August 27, 2021, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision that the Glomar exceptions were valid under Exemption 1. 

Case Information: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. CIA, No. 1:18-cv-02709-TNM (D.D.C.), 20-5045 (D.C. Cir.).

Press Statements


Reading Room

The Intelligence Agencies' "Duty to Warn"

Documents released in our FOIA lawsuit for records on the U.S. government's "duty to warn" Jamal Khashoggi

Legal Filings

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